With the notable exception of Andrey Arshavin, Wenger has generally declined the option to sign players in the January transfer window. The Russian illuminated the league upon his arrival, but has been unable to shake off a dip in form and currently finds himself marginalised by the dazzling and prolific form of Samir Nasri. Instead, Wenger prefers to keep his window firmly shut during the winter months, looking instead open the shutters in the rather more clement summer season. However, given the historical threat of Manchester United’s accumulated wealth and with Chelsea and Man City’s oligarch backing shifting the goalposts in terms of finances, Wenger has been forced to adapt his ideology.
The summer’s defensive signings indicate a wider change in philosophy, with veterans William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre and Sol Campbell released and the focus on promising youngsters similarly abandoned in the defensive third at least. Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci have adapted well since their respective arrivals and Arsenal’s defeats this season cannot be solely attributed to defensive errors, with profligacy at the other end contributing equally to the disappointing results this term. Whilst in past seasons, Wenger’s declarations that Arsenal have the funds to sign in January have been empty threats, his assertion may carry added weight this time around in light of his evolving philosophy.
Perhaps of more concern in January is a potential renewed move by Barcelona for Cesc Fabregas. Wenger declared his belief that the player will stay: “He loves Arsenal deeply, believe me. If he did not love it, he would have gone. I am not pessimistic about him, and I am confident we will keep him for a few more years.” Fabregas clearly feels indebted to the manager who unearthed his talent and developed him into one of the world’s leading midfielders, but quite how long his patience and gratitude will last is likely to be directly affected by Arsenal’s success on the pitch. Recently Arsenal again reported excellent results off the field, with property development projects yielding significant profits.
In an attempt to further expand the financial side of the club, Wenger made a U-turn to consider taking the side on a lucrative pre-season tour outside Europe. Since his arrival in England, he has always taken Arsenal to Austria for their pre-season schedule, but the growing influence of Stan Kroenke in the boardroom has prompted a re-evaluation. Strong pressure was exerted during last season but Wenger resisted, citing the issue of fatigue following the World Cup. With Fabregas and Robin van Persie hampered by niggling injuries since the tournament, le Professuer’s concern is validated, but with a free schedule this summer, he remains open in principle to a break with tradition. The development has long been resisted, but now appears necessary to compete with the likes of Sunday’s opponents and the leading lights in Europe.